For the first time in its 12-year history, the eight franchises of the Indian Premier League is expected to be allowed to play “friendly” fixtures outside of India. The decision is one that the newly-formed IPL council is contemplating as part of a brand building exercise although the teams will not carry any stamp of the tournament of the BCCI, a report in Wednesday’s Times of India stated.
However, the report only stated that the idea has still only been proposed and it will be presented at the BCCI’s AGM meet later this month, where a call is expected to be taken.
“There’s a very simple way to look at it. Until now, if you were in Canada and were interested in watching Mumbai Indians play, you had to fly all the way to India. If you were in the Caribbean and interested in watching Shahrukh Khan’s Kolkata Knight Riders in action, you had no choice but to travel half the globe. Now, the circus may come to a town near you,” says an industry executive.
The first time the Indian Premier League went abroad was in 2009 – when due to general elections in the country, South Africa edged England to be named the replacement venue of the second edition. Five years later, owing to the same reason, the first-half of the IPL 2014 was hosted by Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
The idea of playing abroad is one that has been fancied by IPL franchises over the years. The report states that four-time champions Mumbai Indians first expressed their desire in front of the BCCI to play in Canada many year ago. Shahrukh Khan, team-owner of the Kolkata Knight Riders has another cricket franchise in the Caribbean, the Trinbago Knight Riders playing the CPL. Other franchises such as Chennai Super Kings and the Sunrisers Hyderabad too have their interests in Singapore and Silicon Valley respectively, where they have a strong fan base.
“The issue of allowing IPL franchises to play ‘frendlies’ was also discussed in the meeting but a final call would be taken only after seeing the ICC Future Tours Programme,” a senior member of the IPL governing council said. “We have to check the FTP. We are looking at a small tournament or friendlies for the franchises. We are playing now in March, April and May and after that they have nothing. We want to popularise the game abroad as well, but we have to see the FTP and it is subject to that.
However, it’s not sure just as yet whether the teams have any particular countries or venues in mind. “It is imperative for such ideas to be given priority. When the IPL went to South Africa 10 years ago, the fanfare there caught the global imagination. Even a 20-day stint in UAE, in 2014, had an alarming effect. There’s a market and this is business. It has to grow if the sport has to,” say industry veterans.
As pointed out by another individual, having two IPL teams play abroad will result in a change in broadcast rights, which is a tedious process. Currently, Star holds all the rights for broadcasting the IPL in India but with franchises going abroad, especially if the venues are English county stadiums, the process becomes a lot tougher.
“IPL franchises can play a friendly against Somerset, Durham or Middlesex or Adelaide Strikers. That provision is there but there is no provision for two IPL teams playing friendlies abroad. For that the modalities of broadcast rights need to be changed and it’s not an easy thing,” said another GC member.
“We can’t talk about the future but it is not happening right now. Also some of the bigger teams will not be able to avail their top India players, who will be on a 15-day break post IPL and then play remainder of the bilateral T20s leading upto the World T20. Also you need to factor in workload.”